Sleep Problems in Adolescents
Example: Kelly was 13. Her cousin Ben was 16. They would talk on the phone until late at night. They would always get into trouble but they said they were just not tired. They had a lot of trouble getting to sleep and getting up in the morning was always hard - sometimes too hard. Ben would often fall asleep in science class in the morning.
Sound familiar? Adolescents can have delayed sleep phases. That is - they get tired later than they did before. Their bodies are not ready to sleep when the clock says it is time.
This is due to both hormonal changes and social pressures.
- Consumption of caffeine drinks too close to bedtime
- Teenagers have a lot more going on in their lives (jobs, social activities, school, sports, more homework, worry)
- Lots of media and screen use before bedtime (TV, gaming, mobile phones)
- These all compete for sleep - sleep is low on the priority list and is often given up for these other things.
Circadian (sleep/wake) rhythm factors
- During adolescence there is a delay in the time when melatonin (one of our sleep hormones which makes us sleepy) is released from our brains to our bodies.
- Therefore adolescents are not tired until later in the evening
- So their bodies are not ready to fall asleep until later - so they do things to stop being bored (TV, phone).
- They find it hard to get up in the morning because they fell asleep later and have not had enough sleep.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Don't let the weekend or hoilday bedtime get TOO late . This will push the body clock further forward and make it harder to get to sleep earlier when school or work starts again.
- Be aware of the signs of fatigue in young people during the day (withdrawal, anxiety, depression, aggression, poor learning and attention)
- Be realistic with bedtimes.
- Napping 20 minutes at about 4 PM is better than sleeping in TOO much on weekend to pay back sleep debt
- Promote good sleep hygiene (see Sleep Facts)
Want more information? Take a look through our ‘Adolescents Sleep Facts Sheet’ for a more detailed description on sleep disorders, why sleep is important, what happens during sleep and what factors often influence adolescent sleep.
Please also visit www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au for more information.